Sister Linda Soler, OSB, gave the eulogy at Sister Duane’s service. The following is the eulogy as written and spoken.
The monastic community would like to offer our sympathy and prayers to the family and friends of Sister Duane. We had the privilege of journeying with Sr. Duane because she touched the lives of so many people. A heartfelt thank you to our healthcare staff who cared for Sister Duane with unconditional love. With dignity and grace, she lived her monastic life fulfilling her Baptismal call by letting go to take the hand of God. In the Gospel, Jesus said I am the way and the truth, and the life. Sister Duane would embrace those words knowing someday Jesus would prepare a place for her. As in the Gospel, Sister Duane did believe, and allowed the works of Jesus, knowing life would not always be easy, yet the Gospel message was the fabric of her life when Jesus said “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God, have faith also in me.”
I became acquainted with Sr. Duane back when I was in the eighth grade at St. Bernard’s school. With this personal history, Sr. Duane did ask that I give the reflection. She was my religion and math teacher, and often she would say “I can still see you sitting in the second row in the fourth seat.” She was even brave enough to admit I was a quiet student. However, I have to be honest here, she gave me a D in religion, yep a D. I would remind her how this former student not only received a degree in theology, but I join a religious community, and not just any religious community, but a Benedictine community, and the same one as hers, and I got a D in religion. We would laugh about that numerous times. She was a gentle teacher, and as I reflect, she not only taught me about my faith, but she taught me how to be an inquisitive student. When I did join this community, she tucked me under her wing knowing a former student was now a member of the same community she often talked about. She continued to be a teacher, and she believed in me, and I am grateful for the lessons she offered me. Born in New Trier, MN to John and Margaret Moes, Sr. Duane said her parents were the foundation of her vocation.
She described her mother as a loving woman who would support her children no matter what the circumstances were. Her father was a strong-willed man. Since she was the only girl, she remembered playing with her brother’s toys more than her own. Sr. Duane spent her childhood in a rural community as part of a happy family. Her early years were lived in an atmosphere where her faith was nurtured, and she learned to seek a relationship with God and others rather than possessions and prestige. These roots were important ones for her not only because of the surroundings in which she grew up, but also because of the affection she developed for her family, an affection which she treasured all of her life. Both of her parents were so proud the day she entered religious life. Her family was her strength, and each visit from the family was a tender memory for her.
Sr. Duane loved life and lived it fully in so many ways. She had a sharp and curious mind, a great sense of humor, and an appetite for good conversation when sharing about her family, relatives, and her Monastic Community. She had a love for the Eucharist, the Liturgy of the Hours, and a dedication to the Blessed Mother. Her faith in God remained absolute. In the former Monastery, it was no surprise to see a light on in her office late at night. She was our night security as she made the rounds, making sure all the doors and windows were locked.
She was known for her giggle with squinted eyes during her story telling. Often, she talked about her time at the parishes she so loved. She respected confidentiality, so she didn’t say much about her term as Prioress. She did say, as difficult as the role might have been, she enjoyed every moment. She loved each Prioress in this community for their work. She said no one knows what the Prioress’ job is unless you are in it. So, there was a deep respect and prayer for those who followed her.
She was humbled being one of the 178 founding charter members to make the journey from St. Benedict’s in St. Joseph, MN, to 301 Summit Avenue in 1948. St. Paul’s Monastery gives credit to these 178 brave Sisters, and Sr. Duane is the last of our Charter members to die, as they are all now united through eternal life. She loved anything and everything that involved St. Benedict—whether it was a statue, a cross, the Rule or the medal. She could explain the Benedictine medal in both English and Latin, and she had a knowledge of wisdom about St. Benedict. The only thing she didn’t know about Our Holy Father Benedict was if he wrote the Rule with his right hand or his left hand. She died with a Benedictine medal beside her, which is exactly what she would have wanted.
Sr. Duane valued education by her pioneering spirit. She blessed MOMS, Ministry of Mothers Sharing, she served as a councilor for the Federation of St. Benedict. And, she is one of our founders of Maple Tree Childcare Center when the community decided to turn the former laundry building into a childcare center here on campus—which continues to thrive. Sr. Duane was not shy about giving her opinion when asked, and sometimes she may have struggled with change; however, she was able to accept the new ideas which emerged from the change.
She was elated to have time with her classmate, Sr. Jeron. She could speak German, and nothing got in the way of bingo when she was in the healthcare. During one of my last visits with Sr. Duane, she reminded me to continue to share prayer with those who were ill and that one needs to be always grateful for the gift of life! She invited those around her to grow and see the value of diversity of personalities. These past years she may have been confused about the present, but she knew her past. She shared with me how she silently prayed “Jesus, take this away from me. I belong to you, not to this pain.” She mentioned how she tried her best to love all. With Sr. Duane’s declining sight, she truly was a witness to the scripture verse in 2nd Corinthians: “We walk by faith, not by sight.” Her favorite Psalm was 139: “the all-knowing and ever-present God,” and she especially memorized verse 5: “You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.” And God placed his hand upon her head during her final days.
Sr. Duane lives on in all of us—in our memories, in our hearts, and in our spirits. Her light was so bright; it’s hard to imagine the world without it. Her pain is gone, her soul is free, and her absence is a reminder of her personal triumph. “The Lord opened a door and said, 'Come, I have a new body for you, the old one is finished.'” Sr. Duane has gone through that door to a new life. For us it is over in a physical sense, but for her this is just the beginning of new life as she reunites with her parents and brothers. Thank you, Sr. Duane, for the music that lifts our hearts in one breath to heaven, for the grasp of friendship, and for the gracious loveliness of your vocation—but mostly for the beauty and joy you have brought to those in need. You served us well good and faithful servant. We thank God for your journey and your vocation, so that in all things God may be glorified.